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'My Colors' & Film modes

The G2 (like most Panasonics) offers a range of customizable picture styles (called 'My Colors'). It also provides a range of 'Film Modes' (Smooth, Nature, Nostalgic, Vibrant plus three B&W modes) - all highly customizable.

I'm not going to bother showing the Film modes here since most of them are so subtly different as to be almost indistinguishable (if you want to see them, click here for the relevant page in the G1 review). Each Film mode offers 5 levels of control over Contrast, Saturation, Sharpening and Noise Reduction, and you can create your own presets or use the Multi Film (Film Mode bracketing) option to experiment with different looks. By this point, honestly, you may as well just shoot raw and experiment with post processing.

The Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras offer fairly sophisticated effects 'filters' (Art Filters) - some of which affect the images at a pixel level (adding grain, diffusing, selectively blurring or darkening), the Panasonics make do with less processor-intensive - and less impressive - tonal effects, called 'My Colors'. There are six presets (listed below with a description of my reaction to each one) and one custom option where you can create your own.

  • Elegant (a bit brown)
  • Expressive (painfully oversaturated)
  • Monochrome (pale sepia)
  • Pure (washy and over exposed)
  • Retro (Washy, brown and over exposed)
  • Silhouette (dark, high contrast)
  • Dynamic Art (gruesome faux HDR effect)

The examples below show the effects (apologies for the slightly inconsistent framing: these are hand held).

Standard Elegant Expressive
Monochrome Pure Retro
Silhouette Dynamic Art  

Intelligent Resolution

The G2 features Panasonic's new 'Intelligent Resolution' technology. Put simply this is designed to detect and sharpen edges whilst using noise reduction to keep flat areas smooth. After much experimentation with the feature in bright light, low light, high ISO and low ISO it seems pretty obvious that the results don't exactly live up to the marketing blurb. As the examples below show for the most part what you get looks an awful lot like increasingly strong unsharp masking (which actually reduces low contrast resolution at the highest settings, though will produce crisper looking prints). At higher ISO settings you simply can't see any difference between any of the modes.

I've only shown the extremes here as the steps between 1,2 and 3 are so small. If you want edge enhancement for sharper looking prints - and really don't like post-processing - by all means turn IR on (if you shoot in iA mode it's fixed on 'Auto' anyway), but don't expect it to add any real 'resolution'.

Intelligent Resolution OFF, ISO 100
Intelligent Resolution Level 3, ISO 100

Flash

The G2's built-in pop-up unit does a perfectly decent job. Flash images are usually well exposed and show neutral colors. There is also an AF illuminator lamp on the front of the body to aid the focus in low light.

We did find that flash, unfortunately, is one area where the otherwise excellent Intelligent Auto mode (iA) fell down somewhat, defaulting to slow-synch flash mode in low light. Although we understand the thinking, the result is (unless you've got super steady hands) often slightly (sometimes very) blurred.

Highlight clipping / dynamic range

In the 2 months or so that I used the G2 as my main (only) camera it showed itself to have an incredibly capable metering system that produced no more than a dozen wrongly exposed shots out of over 2000 taken. Crucially, it doesn't tend to overexpose at all (if it's going to get anything wrong, it'll very slightly underexpose). And to be fair, most of the overexposure problems were down to user error (exposure locking then re framing without thinking) or, more commonly, focus error (when the face detection hadn't caught up with my fast-moving toddler).

This is important because, as with all Micro Four Thirds cameras, dynamic range is limited compared to many competitors (including the new Sony NEX), with almost a stop less than the best of the APS-C crowd. The excellent metering means you'll rarely see clipping in your shots, but when you do hit the limitations of the sensor you'll find there's not a lot you can recover in raw (see the raw section for more detail).

As the examples below show, even the smallest amount of overexposure can lead to quite harsh clipping in bright, contrasty conditions. Thankfully overexposure is pretty rare with the G2.

ISO 100 ISO 100

Overall Image Quality / Specifics

Unsurprisingly the G2's output is very similar to the G1 and GF1 - it uses the exact same sensor and has a very similar processing pipeline. At lower ISO settings (100-400) the output generally gives little cause for complaint. Metering and focus accuracy are excellent, meaning you rarely need to intervene unless it's for creative effect. Default JPEG color is subtle and with many subjects produces lovely results, but it's still not as nice as the Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras (or the Sony NEX); there's a tendency for greens to come out a little brownish and skies rarely look anywhere near as blue as they should. Of course this is irrelevant if you shoot raw. Overall it's hard to find much to complain about unless you're a high ISO fan.

As the example below shows, the rather dull greens and yellows (and somewhat anemic sky color) produced by the JPEG engine aren't a problem if you shoot raw.
Out of camera JPEG (STD) ACR converted raw (manual settings)
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